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Samsung’s latest phones go big, again

Cameras, of course, are the heroes of smartphones now, and while the Note’s cameras aren’t up to the same standard as the S series’ array (as usual), the gap is smaller than last year. Both phones can record video in 8K, and come with a trio of shooters for wide, ultrawide and zoomed-in shots. The Ultra, again, is slightly nicer with a 5x optical zoom that equates to a 50x hybrid “space zoom”, while the Note20 manages 3x optical, 30x hybrid.

Samsung also sought to position the Note20 Ultra as a gaming device, announcing that international gamers will have access to Microsoft’s game streaming service — which lets you play all the company’s own games and many more for a monthly fee as part of Xbox Game Pass Ultimate — on its phones from September 15. This was especially big since that was the same day Apple confirmed it would be not be allowing Game Pass or Google’s Stadia on iPhones. Unfortunately neither streaming service has yet been announced for Australia at all.

Security features in the Note20 phones include both a fingerprint reader and facial recognition. Scanning fingerprints is going to be key for phones during COVID with all the mask wearing, and it’ll be interesting to see how phone brands that have moved to just face recognition ID will adjust (looking at you, Apple).

After a brief hands-on with the Note20 Ultra 5G, the big screen is the star. Plus watching videos on it without headphones is actually a good experience with decent audio clarity, which is basically a miracle. Watching music videos on YouTube is crisp and clear, and I could see myself one day happily watching shows on it during a commute (with headphones on, I am not a monster).

Samsung has made noticeable improvements to its S Pen stylus.

Samsung has made noticeable improvements to its S Pen stylus.

The S Pen was, indeed, picked up faster on the screen than on the Note10, making for a much better, smoother experience. The 50x zoom was pretty blurry, but 30X was roughly able to pick up the face of a person three blocks away not wearing a mask, so make of that what you will.

Also announced was the Galaxy Z Fold 2, which offers big improvements over the original Fold, Samsung’s creatively-named first attempt at a folding phone. The biggest improvements were made to the hinge (it has a better sweeper now to get debris out), though the internal display is a little bigger and the cover screen now is now full size.

The Galaxy Fold 2 looks to address many concerns about the original device.

The Galaxy Fold 2 looks to address many concerns about the original device.

There’s no pricing or availability yet for the Z Fold 2, but it does address a lot of the complaints about the original model, even if it does still leave out a headphone jack and stylus.

The Tab S7 (from $1149) and S7+ (from $1549) are Samsung’s latest tablets. This new version brings the tablet range in line with the internal tech in the Note, no longer a year behind the times at release like previous models were.

Aside from phones, Samsung also announced new tablets, watches and buds.

Aside from phones, Samsung also announced new tablets, watches and buds.

They contain a Snapdragon 865+ processor to give it more grunt, and the same S Pen improvements as the Note range. That combined with the better multitasking, and a partnership with Canva, means they actually seem like very decent tablets that are better placed to compete with Apple’s iPad and Microsoft’s Surface.

The most obvious thing about the new Galaxy Watch 3 (from $649) is that it’s just pretty. It still has the rotating bezel, and the faces look fantastic. It features fall detection, sleep score, PowerPoint control, and top personal trainers are making exclusive workouts for the watch so people can workout at home during COVID. Other features include ECG and blood pressure monitoring, but they won’t be available in Australia until the TGA approves them, which we’re still waiting on with the Apple Watch (so don’t hold your breath).

Samsung's new wireless earbuds are decidedly bean shaped.

Samsung’s new wireless earbuds are decidedly bean shaped.

Elsewhere, it turns out beans truly are the musical fruit, because the brand new Galaxy Buds Live look exactly like beans. The Samsung spokesperson said they had been inspired by jewellery, but I’ve seen jewellery, and these are beans.

What’s so remarkable about these true wireless earbuds isn’t the adaptive noise cancelling that you can turn on and off (though that is nice), but the lack of ear tips. Not relying on the snug hug of your ear canals to hold them in sounds far more comfortable than the alternative, and I’m really interested to see how they sound and stay in. They could either be the most comfortable true wireless buds ever, or a disaster waiting to happen. Theey’ll go for $319.

Everything except the Z Fold 2 is available for pre-order now, and will release on August 21.

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